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By Barbara Forrest
The title of this post may sound strange. But read on, and you will see that there is more backbone in a minority of the members of the Florida legislature than in the entire Louisiana legislature. Just as it was doing in Louisiana, the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank in Seattle, was maneuvering in Florida to get its academic freedom (read: “stealth creationism”) legislation passed in the state of Florida in 2008. But the outcome in Florida was very different than the outcome in Louisiana. On February 29, 2008, a Discovery Institute “academic freedom” bill was introduced in the Florida Senate by Sen. Ronda Storms. That bill, SB 2962, passed. On March 4, a companion bill, HB 1483, was introduced in the House by Rep. Alan Hays. It also passed. In April, as the National Center for Science Education reported, “The antievolution bills — the so-called Academic Freedom Acts — in Florida are progressing, despite protests from teachers, scientists, and the Florida ACLU, and despite the criticisms of the legislature’s own staff.” By April 28, however, there was some doubt as to whether creationists in the Florida legislature could reconcile their own differences in time to get the bill passed before the legislature adjourned on May 2. They did not, and the legislation died. In 2009, creationists in the Florida legislature made another attempt at getting academic freedom legislation passed, but SB 2396 fortunately did not even get to the floor, and the bill died in committee. (See the excellent Florida Citizens for Science website.)
Florida seems to have learned its lesson (for the time being). The notable thing about Florida, however, was the vocal resistance to these creationist bills by Florida legislators on the debate floor of the House and Senate in 2008. (See videos below.) There was no such resistance on the floor of the Louisiana House and Senate when the Louisiana Science Education Act (LEA) was making its way through the legislature at exactly the same time as the Florida bills. In fact, where the Louisiana legislature is concerned, except for three “no” votes (pdf) in the House (which the three legislators cast without comment), there was no resistance at all. Continue Reading »